“It is all one!”, an interview with Dr. Larry Culliford about Science and Spirituality


This was, by far, the most challenging experience I encountered when doing these interviews. Maybe it was because I was so caught up in these pragmatic sides that I forgot to understand them as well. I guess Dr. Culliford was indeed right. He told me that my questions reveal a certain way of thinking, called “dualistic”, which I don’t find suitable for me to be honest(an either/or, right/wrong, us/them type of thinking). But I believe that this exact unconscious way of presenting anything may reflect the thinker’s true nature.

As for a resume of Dr. Culliford, born on St Patrick’s Day 1950,he is a psychiatrist in Sussex, England and the author of The Psychology of Spirituality. He has also written several books on happiness using the pen-name Patrick Whiteside. He was a co-founder of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group. A former Chair of the Thomas Merton Society of Great Britain and Ireland, he is also a member of the International Thomas Merton Society and the Scientific and Medical Network.

He is also writing an amazing blog for PsychologyToday.com which I recommend to everyone (Spiritual Wisdom for Secular Times). All the links you need to find will be down below.

Now let’s hear the interview!

Q1: how would you define Spirituality? (because I believe Science is obviously explained)

“Because it is without boundaries, no-one can ‘define’ spirituality. It is not like a specimen to pin down, dissect and analyse; more like an adventure park to explore.

I find it helpful to think in terms of five, seamlessly related, ‘dimensions’ of human experience. The spiritual dimension is one. The others are: physical (matter & energy), biological (life), psychological (mind) and social (community). The spiritual dimension involves universal experiences of love, awe, wonder, mystery, meaning, purpose, ‘something greater than each to which we all belong’, something whole and indivisible; a divine and sacred unity, in other words, that some people on occasion call ‘God’.”

Q2: do you consider religion an influential factor of Spirituality? Why so? 

“All religions relate to and interpret the spiritual dimension of human experience, but – like Science – they inhabit the physical world too, having life especially in the social dimension, bringing people together to discover and worship the sacred according to different formulae and traditions. On the face of things, the different religions appear separate, and – through immature, incomplete, mainly dualistic thinking – can be divisive, causing problems and suffering. Religions tend to come together, though, through their more mature, mystical spiritual pathways.”

Q3: regarding the connection between Science and Spirituality, do you think they equally influence each other, or one is more present? 

“It is all one! Science and Spirituality both have ways of understanding human experience of life, nature and the universe. Science deals principally with the physical and biological dimensions, also (but with less precision) the psychological and social. However, Science’s dualistic approach encourages, even enforces, people to take sides and ignore, even reject, Spirituality. However, a scientist who is ignorant and dismissive of his or her own spiritual nature, and the spiritual nature of whatever he/she is investigating, is arguably as at as great a disadvantage as is a spiritually-minded person who is ignorant and dismissive of the ways and findings of science.”

Q4: have you always put them on the same level of importance, by combining them or did one of them was, at first, more powerful? 





Q5: were you ever supposed to apply one’s mechanism on a patient, but against your decision? 

“No. My understanding of what it means to be a doctor involves a powerful kind of personal integrity: to be as knowledgeable as possible, to remain independent-minded, to take full responsibility for whatever one might say and do (also for whatever one might leave unsaid and undone), and to treat each patient as one would wish to be treated by any good doctor. Being a doctor, practising medicine and psychiatry, has therefore been an essential aspect of my personal spiritual journey, one I felt called (at the age of sixteen) to undertake.”

Q6: having in mind the fact that people are born with certain inclinations, as judging with their mind rather than soul or the other way around, do you think they should pursue what they feel secure with or explore and use both?

“The real security in life always involves seeking and trusting a kind of ‘spiritual’ comfort-zone, rather than a worldly one. Maintaining spiritual awareness – through prayer, meditation and other methods – gives a person the necessary discernment to follow the path that is not only right for them but that will also bring most benefit to others. It will not usually seem like the safest path, far from it sometimes, but the necessary protection, guidance, courage, hope and determination will be present to help you along the way. This is seldom the case when attempting to avoid suffering, or when self-seeking worldly ambitions take hold.”

Q7: should kids be taught since childhood to connect the two or rather they make that decision themselves?

“There is good evidence that children, in their early years, are aware of a special relationship between themselves, other people, nature and something bigger altogether, something divine. Later, when they are discouraged from talking about their inner worlds, when they also experience conditioning into the prevailing secular culture and the ‘evidence-based’ traditions of science, this spiritual sensibility is lost or goes underground. Only in some people does it re-emerge later.

There is good evidence, too, though that children introduced in school to regular meditation or ‘stilling’ benefit in terms of their conduct, relations with their peers and teachers, improved learning ability, creativity and imagination. They are calmer, happier and more mature. I would therefore recommend at least this. It would also help if science teachers were to retain, express and share regularly their own sense of wonder concerning the subjects they teach, rather than reduce it to text book summaries and the dull repetition of ‘facts’ for later regurgitation by pupils in their exams. (I’m sure many teachers try to do this.) That way, Science and Spirituality will remain in harmony for each child.”

Q8: do you agree with the classification Dura-Vila made in her book ( ‘Sadness, Depression, and the Dark Night of the Soul: transcending the medicalisation of sadness’) regarding the two types of “deep sadness” as well as their effects? 

“Broadly-speaking, I do agree; and I have written a great deal on the advisability for mental health professionals to ‘take a spiritual history’ as part of routine assessments. However, it may be slightly simplistic to think dualistically in terms of either this kind of sadness or another kind. Both may be present to some degree. I have always taught that the first question to ask and answer is, ‘Who is this person to whom these things are happening?’ rather than, ‘What has gone wrong with this person?’ That way, seeing your patient as a whole person on a journey through life, you are less likely to make harmful mistakes.”


Q9: can you share one moment of your life, if you have one, when Science and Spirituality blended in together without you interfering? 

“Science and Spirituality are not separate. Every moment, from my first breath, my soul – like yours and everyone’s – has dwelt in the certain knowledge, in the greatest of all truths, that all is sacred; all is one.”


I admit, my questions seemed childish as if I were a little kid learning how to write. It all seemed so clear in my head, two distinct concepts that may interfere sometimes. I was really wrong. The way in which Dr. Culliford’s answers hit me reflect this Black&White thinking pattern I didn’t recognise as mine before. The fact that I understood this is what I really am thankful for.



  1.  https://www.amazon.com/Psychology-Spirituality-Introduction-Larry-Culliford/dp/184905004X?SubscriptionId=AKIAIRKJRCRZW3TANMSA&tag=psychologytod-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=184905004X
  2. https://www.amazon.com/Love-Healing-Happiness-Spiritual-Secular/dp/1905047916?SubscriptionId=AKIAIRKJRCRZW3TANMSA&tag=psychologytod-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=1905047916
  3. https://www.amazon.com/Happiness-30-day-Guide-That-Lifetime/dp/0712602127?SubscriptionId=AKIAIRKJRCRZW3TANMSA&tag=psychologytod-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=0712602127
  4. https://www.amazon.com/Little-Book-Happiness-Guide-Better/dp/0712670459?SubscriptionId=AKIAIRKJRCRZW3TANMSA&tag=psychologytod-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=0712670459

PsycologyToday blog: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/spiritual-wisdom-secular-times

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  1. I really like how the writer fit in space for self-reflection on their writing/questions. This shows me a sense of self-awareness that is really vital when you work in the media sector.

    Moving on to the article, Dr. Larry Culliford’s thoughts upon the connection with Science and Spirituality, I find, is very fair and just; he doesn’t get dogmatic unlike people on both sides of the argument, as shown by his answer on Questions 2 and 3.
    That said, however, I want to know more about how spirituality could help people with mental illness, as well as his take on how different religions could affect each person.


  2. This interview was very interesting to read. Before reading this I thought sience and sprituality were two distinct concepts that rarely work together.
    But this has shown me that infact the oppposite is the case, that both work really well together, as his answer on Question 2 and 3 prove.

    The question were very put together and the answers are very easy to follow and to understand for someone who hasn’t heard anything about this topic before.

    I like how the writer reflects on her view before and after the interview, which shows to me a great interest in the actual topic she is writing about.

  3. A fascinating read! People often have the mentality that science is an entirely separate entity from spirituality, when in fact, the two are more interconnected than they realize.
    I’m glad that Dr. Culliford was able to explain the notion of spirituality in order for people to not only see how it can connect with science, but that there is a difference between spirituality and religion. The former is integral to the latter, however, spirituality is more of awe and reverence towards new experiences and new ideas. Religion is directing that awe and reverence towards a god and belief, turning it into a way of life.
    Science is all about discovery and learning. Spirituality allows for people to enjoy and pursue science; they find pleasure in learning new things, people are in awe with the discovery of new planets and stars.
    I especially like Dr. Culliford’s observation regarding children, spirituality and science. They do not care more about one or the other: kids are simply eager to learn more and explore more because they enjoy it. However, as they get older, they are influenced to choose between one and the other because not a lot of people understand the connection between spirituality and science. This could be due to the misunderstanding that spirituality is synonymous with religion.
    Yet more people are coming to recognize and understand this connection once more, and this article proves to be relevant to these changing times.

  4. This article is a little different… and I like it. Usually an interview consist of questions and answers and that’s it. This one, however, has those small paragraphs in the begining and at the end that add author’s personal touch. This article went from 6 to 10 from my perspective only because of this.
    Anyway, this point of view is quite unusual, especially from a scientist. Not many people understand how much richer life can be if one decides to interfere different aspects – science, spirituality, art. Another thing I like a lot is the fact that Dr. Culliford decided to divide the world in five dimensions, it really helps us look at the world from different perspectives and cherish the goods we can find in each dimension. Many times we overlook the goods that we have just because they don’t fit into dimension we “got used” to.
    The answer in which he mentioned children and how easy it is for them to connect spirituality into their lives just made the article more heartwarming and sincere.

  5. Interesting take on not only the dichotomy of the spiritual and scientific, but also on the nature of dichotomy itself as the interviewer relates the topic to their own dualistic mode of thinking.
    However, some of the questions could have been worded better or structured differently, with some suggestions below:

    Q4: have you always put them on the same level of importance, by combining them or did one of them was, at first, more powerful?
    REWRITE: Have you always given science and spirituality the same value, or did you previously prioritize one over the other?

    Q5: were you ever supposed to apply one’s mechanism on a patient, but against your decision?
    COMMENT: As a reader, this question doesn’t make too much sense. In terms of “applying one’s mechanism”, one of what, what is its mechanism exactly, and how can you isolate and apply the mechanism of only one on a patient?

    Q6: having in mind the fact that people are born with certain inclinations, as judging with their mind rather than soul or the other way around, do you think they should pursue what they feel secure with or explore and use both?
    REWRITE: Some people make decisions largely based on logic, while others largely use faith. Do you belief they should use both equally?

    Q7: should kids be taught since childhood to connect the two or rather they make that decision themselves?
    REWRITE: Should children be taught in school that science and spirituality are the same, or is that realization better understood with age and experience?

  6. First of all, I do not think that the questions were childish. I think that a lot of people thought about Spirituality and Science as two distinct concepts too before reading this and by asking those questions the author helped these people (me included) to learn about the connection of the two.
    I was also reminded that we tend to think in black and white categories on so many levels and different subjects.
    I was wondering what science and religion (as a proxy for spirituality) could do to work together in the future? Are there studies that deal with the effect spirituality and religion have on peoples minds?

  7. The questions were short and sweet with some impact. I throughly enjoyed this read. The questions generally asked what I wanted to know, however, when it comes to such topics I am a huge fan of knowing why? What seemed the original interest in this topic? And what are your personal views on this too? Thank you for adding in links to his books, as well as giving a small introduction about Dr Culliford!

  8. In my opinion, this article is one of the less problematic ‘I’ narrated pieces I’ve encountered thus far on this site. It starts off very strongly, with a few grammatical errors here and there. I feel like the author would benefit from having one or two people proofread their future articles, as all authors should. The headline is somewhat cumbersome, and I feel that a shorter, punchier headline would be more grabbing to a reader. I’m also curious as to why certain terms are capitalized, since, even within context, the capitalization is still not needed. However, it was interesting to view spirituality in separation from religion, and the points that Dr. Culliford made about the involvement of it with science are extremely poignant. However, the execution of question 4 is somewhat messy, and you may prosper in the future by imploring the person you are interviewing to elaborate on answers that are few or one word. The questions asked were just inquisitive enough to receive a thorough answer, and thankfully, unbiased in religious or spiritual affinity. All in all, the article is very good, aside from some grammatical errors. I recommend trying to play with an interview that doesn’t follow the typical question-and-answer format. Thank you for doing research and including citations, it shows the effort you put into learning about the topic at hand!

  9. This article definitely touches on a huge topic and serves as a good place for conversation starters on how spirituality and science fit together. It’s a topic that needs to be discussed and I applaud the author for tackling it head on; however, I feel this topic is so big that trying to tackle it in 9 questions is not possible. I would suggest to the other that they continue their research into how science and spirituality work and oppose each other, but identify specific sub-topics and tackle one per article (EX. Spirituality: how and why it differers for each person, children and spirituality, spirituality and religion: similar but different, how spirituality and science work together, how spirituality and science oppose one another, etc.). I would love to keep reading articles from this author about this topic, it just needs to be broken down a bit more.

  10. This is a very interesting topic to base an interview on. Most people have the misconception that science and spirituality cannot go together because they are so different and that life can be represented by either one or the other. Dr. Culliford had thorough answers that explained how the two are so interconnected, he also provides advice to ensure that future generations believe in spiritually along with science, instead of just one or the other.
    The questions asked by the author are simple and to the point, which I appreciate. As a person that doesn’t have much knowledge on spirituality and how it interconnects with science, these are exactly the questions I would have had when first learning about the topic. While it is very general and broad, this interview builds a decent foundation for the reader to go forth and do their own research about this topic, if interested.

  11. Personally, I think this topic is very timely because we live in a world where humans are not only making giant leaps in the scientific world, we are not only part of a larger communities revolved around religion, but we live in a time where the two inevitably cross paths. For instance, some religious groups don’t support certain life-extending medical practices. Some scientific groups undermine the basis of certain religious communities. With such strong opposition between these two sometimes, it’s important to remember that they both stemmed from the same root: humans. With this middle ground in mind, this was a very helpful article in understanding the interviewee’s perspective on the topic but I want to know, what does the interviewer think? Why was this topic pursued and for what purpose? To dispel negative stigma or to simply understand the subject on a deeper level?

  12. It would be cool to know what makes previously un-spiritual people embrace spirituality, and the process they went through to get there. It would also be good to know what kinds of people are attracted to certain religions, and what makes people lose spirituality later in life.

  13. I feel as though the concept of science and spirituality being one is something that I have always understood. Our universe is boundless with information that we humans as a whole simply can’t wrap our minds around. Science is all around us on Earth, it is the only thing that humans can rely on that is absolute truth. Although a spiritual concept has been with us since we are born into this life that we can not deny. Love, Fear, Hope, ect… are only concepts that we can not fully understand as a whole population. However each of us individually are familiar with these elements but in entirely different ways. I can only hope that one day the human race will open up to this ideal and embrace the wonders of life that we can not explain. Only then will we know true peace within ourselves.

  14. I love this article, it’s formatting is wonderful and easy to follow, and the topic is an exciting one! I loved the information provided about the person being interviewed, it made me really trust his words! He seems to be an incredible and intelligent person. The questions were very well thought out, and I loved every answer. I also liked how you formatted the questions, the numerical listing really helps the flow of the article. I’m glad you provided all of the links at the end, it’s a good way to keep pursuing knowledge in this area. Overall a brilliant read!

  15. Very interesting article, as someone who both tends to think very logistically-sometimes to a fault- and is atheist I have never put much thought into these kinds of ties between the topics.

    I still have a comments on the article.
    Question 2, Dr. Larry speaks of the “dualistic” thinking that prevents people from properly connecting the spiritual and scientific. My question is what caused this dualistic pattern of thinking, even in the spiritual?

    And finally I would just like to commend the wonderful writing styles used through the interview. Noted at the end it is a bit “child-like” but in a wonderful way that shines the genuine curiosity and wonder in the interviewer.

    Question 5, The wording of the initial question “Q5: were you ever supposed to apply one’s mechanism on a patient, but against your decision” is a bit clunky and unclear.

    Question 7, The evidence cited by Dr. Larry sounds very interesting, but I would love to see the actual study or studies he is drawing this from.

    That being said this article holds some fantastic quotes and thought provoking questions. My personal favorites were Dr. Larry “the first question to ask and answer is, ‘Who is this person to whom these things are happening?’ rather than, ‘What has gone wrong with this person?’ ” Such an important mind set for anyone trying to understand someone with mental illness.

  16. Proof read proof read proof read. The beginning if of this article was incomprehensible. The questions didn’t make any sense. This is an intriguing and important topic please give it the credit it is due by at least making an effort when writing about it. This is not an interview article; it is a rough first draft.

  17. I enjoyed reading this article. Before reading this article, I thought of the two, science and spirituality, as two distinct topics that overlap on occasion. However, this interview caused me to change my perspective a little and think about the two being equal. This, in my opinion, caused the article to be effective. When you read something, you want it to affect you in some kind of way and this article achieved that, not in a enormous way, but enough.

  18. ‘Who is this person to whom these things are happening?’ rather than, ‘What has gone wrong with this person?’ That way, seeing your patient as a whole person on a journey through life, you are less likely to make harmful mistakes.”
    This comment is very insightful and beneficial. Even in social, rather than clinical situations, this is a positive way to view the behavior of others.

    Spirituality is not an easy thing to define, though I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about it. In my mind, one can just know it exists, whatever it may be. The way I came to understand that is by considering how an individual will sometimes feel it and turn around when I’m looking at them and conversely how I can feel it sometimes, when another person or even an animal is looking. To me this is evidence of a spiritual element to our existence. However, science is definitely a lot easier to grab ahold of. It’s more comfortable for many of us.

  19. The topic in this arcticle is interesting, but somehow I got the feeling through all the article that Dr. Culliford strongy connected spirituality with religion, and with religion methods. For my point of view, these thing are not nessesry connected. Religion according to A.W. Green, is: “Religion is a system of beliefs and symbolic practices and objects, governed by faith rather than by knowledge which relates man to an unseen supernatural realm beyond the known and beyond the controllable.” It is system, when spirituality is something not strictly connected to God. Spirituality is wide concept, spirituality is made of picture of yourself you have, how you see world in terms is it good, not good, (half empty, half full glass), and there is our moral in there, too. I have a question. What Dr. Culliford think is connection between spirituality and science, and by that I think, is there some causal connection?

  20. Dr. Larry Culliford’s epistemology of five “dimensions’ as a framework in philosophical discussions for the argument for why Science and Spirituality can coexists, in my opinion, is brilliant. I chose to believe that science and spirituality can coexists. It does for me. If we are free will to chose, why can’t we chose to take the “Leap of Faith” as per the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, and believe in ‘God’ ‘spirituality’ or whatever metaphysical belief you may call it. Soren Kierkegaard writings entitled, On the Dedication to That Single Individual’ state that we need to commit ourselves passionately to the quest for truth and personal authenticity. Isn’t it in the unknowable that we seek answers to more scientific discoveries exercising the same, ‘Leap of Faith” exercised in believing and passionately seeking truths for oneself. In Dr. Culliford’s response to question 6. for me lies a profound statement, “Through prayer, meditation, and other methods – gives a person the necessary discernment to follow the path that is not only right for them but that will also bring most benefit to others.” The benefit you bring to others is for me the epitome of what it would mean to be spiritual in any ‘religion’.

  21. This article was very well written. The introduction was on point, I appreciate how the author provided a brief background about the interviewee (this gives credibility), and the detailed responses. There is only one question and response I did not comprehend… that is, question #5. Maybe is the wording of the question…but either way even still I did not really understand the response. The flow of this question did not seem to follow the same vibe as the others, seemed random to me. I would appreciate if you can simplify it.

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